She walked into my UCLA Extension class and made it clear that she was not only going to write the three chapters I assign in class--but she was going to finish the book.
Almost no one finishes the book. In all the classes I've taught, I can count on one hand the number of students who've actually finished writing their books. Because, as we all find out when we decide to actually sit down and try to do it, writing books is hard work. But even back in the beginning, before she wrote a word, I could tell: Lindy wasn't kidding. I don't think there's a single thing she couldn't do if she decided she was going to do it.
She didn't just finish the book. She finished it in about four months. Then, just as she'd told me she would, she sold it. And it comes out today. HOW COOL IS THAT?
Because Lindy, much like the character she writes about in her debut, Primetime Princess, is pretty much a force of nature.
High heels, hijinks, and head honchos in Hollywood
Alexa Ross has risen to the top of the Hollywood boys’ club. As the vice president of comedy development at Hawkeye Broadcasting System, Alexa has put her early years working as an assistant to Jerry Kellner, her sex-crazed former boss, behind her.
However, nepotism lands Jerry a plum spot at HBS…reporting to Alexa! Soon Jerry’s malicious behavior is destroying everything good in Alexa’s life, from the young student she tutors to the romance she thought she’d never find. Can Alexa win the battle for ratings and break through the glass ceiling, even if it destroys her—and everything she loves?
Sharp, witty, and heartwarming, Primetime Princess is an unforgettable sneak peek into the exclusive behind-the-scenes drama that occurs over the course of one TV development season.Here's what I wrote about the book after I read it (in a great big rush one Sunday afternoon, because I couldn't bear to put it down, so desperate was I to know how it ended):
"Lindy DeKoven's brilliant debut manages to be a rollicking insider's tour behind the scenes of the Hollywood game, a searing indictment of the entrenched Boys' Club that dominates the industry, and a really great story about heroine Alexa Ross and her journey into the heart of that darkness--not just up the corporate ladder at the possible cost of all she holds dear, but toward a better understanding of who she is and what she wants out the life she's worked so hard to build. This is one of my favorite books this year!" —Megan Crane, author of I Love the 80s and Once More With Feeling
I love this book, and I love Lindy. So to celebrate, I'm giving away two signed copies of the book.
Here's me and Lindy (holding one of the books I'm giving away, in fact) at her launch party this past weekend:
Want a copy? You know you do. Just tell me what your favorite TV show is in the comments, and I'll pick two winners on Friday.
(Want the book desperately but afraid you won't win? You can buy your copy here.)
"I don’t think you can keep from losing yourself. Some stuff is just too hard, and life can be brutal. But I do think that if you can reach out and let someone hold your hand for a bit, here and there—if you can admit you need help and ask for it—the coming back to yourself is a little bit easier. And that’s the part that really matters.
We all walk into the woods. What matters is that you walk out again."
Want to catch up on Project Joy?
Part One is here.
Part Two is here.
Part Three is here.
And the Pinterest Board is here.
And I've gathered all Project Joy things together and created a Facebook page, where I hope we can all keep this conversation going. Come join in!
And if you want to reach out to me, please do. We're not alone.
I'm happy to pin them to my Pinterest board, sure, but stare at myself in the mirror while reciting positive things? Attempt to love myself on command and while staring at/contemplating my flaws? It makes me feel like an idiot. I just can't bring myself to do it, no matter how long I live in California.
This body that has waxed and waned--but mostly waxed--as if it did so of its own accord, as if it wanted to punish me, too. This body that was strong and tough and mine to command until the day I rolled over in bed and my chest ached, and I had to contend with the onslaught of breasts, hips, hormones. It felt like an attack. This body that never felt like mine--like me--since.
She watched him approach with that frozen sort of smile he knew she used only on him. It was obviously automatic, as she waited for the other shoe to drop. The sort of smile she might give a wild animal. Now, her eyebrows crept high on her forehead.
Tommy gestured at the couch, grimly aware that the gloriously deconstructed jacket that he wore—the stylist’s words, not his—had a leather fringe hanging from the sleeves that waved when he moved. He felt like a bullfighter, only more absurd.
“You’ve been sitting in the same position for hours,” he said.
She thought he was insane. He could see it in her eyes. He felt insane.
Tommy stared down at her, his mind racing, confused. His body was far more direct. It announced itself in the wholly unwelcome pressure in his groin, a situation not at all helped by the fact he was wearing a pair of white leather trousers that might as well have been painted on.
He couldn’t possibly want to sleep with her.
And yet... It was something about that unruly mess of curls that today exposed the delicate line of her neck. And that mouth of hers that she abused, like now, as she bit down on her full lower lip. He imagined that mouth put to much better use, and then wished he hadn’t, when his too-tight pants immediately got tighter. He shifted, uncomfortable.
He was just barely still man enough to admit to himself that he’d been reacting to her like a teenaged boy—why not just punch her in the arm and get it over with? He was disgusted with himself.
“You are a Chevy,” he informed her. Reminding himself at the same time. So what if it sounded crazy. The whole situation was crazy. He was definitely crazy.
“A Chevy,” she repeated, her eyebrows jacking up and her chin lifting. Because there was no way being called a Chevy was a compliment, and she wasn’t an idiot.
“A Chevrolet.” In case she was confused as to which Chevy he meant.
“A Chevrolet.” She didn’t look confused. She waited. When he didn’t speak, she cleared her throat. “I am an automobile.”
Her voice went up at the end there, making it a question. An icy sort of question.
“A Chevy.” He made an impatient gesture. “Not a De Lorean. Or an Aston Martin.”
“I see.” Her tone was arid. “Am I a Chevy station wagon? Maybe with wood paneling? Because those were always my favorites. They were so sleek and powerful. Who wouldn’t want to be a Chevy Caprice Classic, for example?”
Her sarcastic tone could have peeled paint. He ignored it, and concentrated on her strange use of the past tense. He frowned.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“But calling me a Chevy does?” She held up a hand before he could answer. “Silly me, of course it does. It’s a secret car code known only to rock stars. I’ll just ask Billy Idol the next time I run into him.”
“I drive luxury cars,” he told her. Firmly, as if that settled things. “Luxury sports cars. Expensive machines that other men would kill to touch.”
“Yes, Tommy,” she replied, soothingly. With that bite underneath. Treating him like a child. An annoying child. “You’re a very rich, very famous man.”
“Exactly.” But as he glared at her, and she failed to fall apart before him, he realized that he was in trouble. And the worst part was, he knew why.
He hadn’t always been a very rich, very famous driver of very fancy cars. The Tommy from a trailer park in Buffalo, who had never been near a De Lorean in even his wildest wet dreams, was the problem. He had spent some quality time in the back seats of numerous sturdy, unpretentious American cars, Chevys among them. He liked American cars, and the little slice of heaven Donna Castiglione had showed him in her daddy’s Buick. He wasn’t such a snob that he couldn’t appreciate that mouth Jenna was worrying, or the way the tight jeans covered her ass.
The problem wasn’t that Jenna Jenkins was a Chevy. The problem was that, deep down, he was.
You can buy your copy here!
My life was in a strange, in-between place. I'd left England after five years there, and was living in my parents' house while I finished my doctoral dissertation. My life was a collection of almosts.
I was almost finished with my endless dissertation. I was almost ready to move out to California. And I had written a book that was out on submission, though after all the rejections, I was almost ready to give up that dream for good.
The friend I was visiting out in Seattle was the one who inspired me to write that book in the first place. I'd always written--angsty teen poetry, stark and painful and not-very-good short stories, and the first one to three chapters of a thousand discarded books--but I'd never finished a book. It was Kim (whose debut book just came out this week, do you have your copy?) who knew the steps to take between writing and publishing, and showed me that connective tissue by example. Until she started trying to get published, I was completely unaware that it was something you could decide to do. I think I thought writing books was something that happened magically to the lucky, somehow.
And anyway, it wasn't going to happen for me. I'd come to terms with that a few days before my trip. And old high school friend and I had been driving in lazy loops around our hometown, the way we had a thousand times before, and I'd confessed that I really had thought the book was good. That it would sell. That I'd been unprepared for rejection after rejection after rejection. That I guessed I'd have to come up with an alternate plan for my life once all my almosts were done.
It was okay. I was resigned. I'd... figure something out, surely. I thought I'd move to California (after five years in England, I wanted an endless summer) and... come up with something. Wasn't that why most people moved to California? Why not me, too?
I wasn't sad. It was just that when a dream dies, it hurts. I was surprised how much it hurt.
So when I shuffled off the plane in Detroit, and had to run toward the connecting flight, I almost didn't check my cell phone at all. I think I pulled it out (this was ten years ago, it was no smart phone; there was no email or internet to fiddle with) to call Kim and tell her I was on schedule.
But instead, there were all these calls from a New York number, and not one I recognized.
I remember sitting in a hard plastic chair, looking out at something grey and cold, but I couldn't tell you what. The tarmac? The plane? The Detroit weather? I remember my agent's excited voice, "where have you BEEN all day???" I remember feeling weighted down and buoyant, dizzy and hot as she told me the news: that someone wanted to buy my book.
I have no idea what I said. I had to ask what "Warner Books" was, because my brain had stopped working. Did I scream? Did I cry? I don't know. Did I make a scene? I have no idea.
I just remember that hard plastic chair in Detroit, and the knowledge that everything had just changed, forever.
There were no more almosts. Magic was real; dreams could come true.
And I was going to be published.
I know I boarded a plane to Seattle a few minutes later, and I know it must have taken me there, but in my memory, I flew across the rest of the country all by myself.
Yeah. None of that happened. No fanfare. No fireworks. No difference at all between one day and the next. It was like that excellent Dar Williams song where she sings, "when I chose to live there was no joy, it's just a line I crossed."
I just… crossed the line.
I can tell you what makes me happy, fleetingly. A great conversation, a good book. The comfort of good friends. Losing myself in a great tv show (the more seasons on DVD, the better). The exquisite solace of hot, buttered popcorn, or chocolate, or the perfect song played loudly during a pretty drive. My husband's smile. The unrestrained joy my dogs display when I walk in a door. The moon out on a bright blue morning. These are all little, bottled happinesses I can take out and play with when I need them, like shards of light when everything else is dark. Solace. Comfort. A warm sweater on a cool night. Like tiny little lanterns, good for illuminating a moment or two, but not enough to light a path.
Joy, though, is something else. I can't tell you how I knew it was different, when I'd been without it for so long, but I did. I knew. It should be more than a lantern, a flash of light. It should be like bone--strong and tough. Built to withstand dark and pain and all those long nights of the soul. As bright as hope, as tough as steel. That's what I wanted. That was joy. As simple as a sunbeam, and as miraculous.
I had to ask myself some serious questions: What makes me happy, and not just fleetingly? What do I need to remain happy--to have happy as a baseline? What is joy? How do I hold on to it? How do I make it my bones, my heart, me? So whatever happens, whatever dark nights I have to survive, there's that tough steel beneath--tough and impenetrable and mine?
None of these, it turned out, were simple questions.
My husband's answer to most things, as a man who has been comfortable in his skin for most of his life, is to be in his body, to move it around and learn to enjoy it. My answer to most things, as someone who is… not, is to study the problem until I can dissect it, analyze it, and find a way to think my way through it.
Neither of these approaches had helped much during our dark years, as they are pretty much in opposition to each other--as we were, in many ways. I didn't want to spend any more time than necessary focused on the body that had betrayed me so hideously, that had lost so much, that I couldn't even recognize as mine anymore after all the months of prednisone and hormones and grief. And I had thought myself crazy, around and around and around, and that didn't do anything but make me heartily sick of myself. I'd settled into numbness, but even though I was in pieces, I was pretty sure that "numb" wasn't a place joy could grow.
So I faked it.
I went off all my medications. I stopped cold turkey, against medical advice. (My non-medical advice to you is not to do this. Really. Not smart.) I went on a harsh diet. I made vows about exercise and because I had nothing left to lose, really, and because my husband was so insistent it could help and what the hell, it couldn't hurt-- I kept those vows. I created lists and whiteboards detailing my goals, then ignored all that pointless "thinking" I'd been bludgeoning myself with. I lost myself in a particularly tough book I needed to write, and thought about that instead.
And the truth is, I'm pretty good at punishing myself. I've never met a hairshirt I wouldn't wear until it made me bleed, and there is a certain satisfaction in feeling like a martyr. None of those are my good qualities, but who cares? I had nothing to lose by indulging them. It was a grim march, a pitched battle, and all I knew was that whatever waited for me on the other side? It had to be better than where I was. Or, barring that, different.
I wanted different. Something, anything, that was better than where I was. And I was lost--I was so lost--but I knew that anywhere else was better. It had to be better.
We think of hope as a happy thing, a good thing. Light and fluffy. But I discovered that sometimes, it's fanged and harsh and ugly. A tenacious little gargoyle deep in the gut. It has to be, because when it's the only thing you have, the only thing left, it better have stone claws--the better to sink in and hold on.
My friend told me she'd decided to be happy. I'd decided I could be, too, despite all evidence to the contrary.
For a long time, that was all I had.
And then one day my friend turned to me and marveled, "you have a sparkle in your eyes again." I'd been avoiding mirrors, those evil reflections of that stranger I didn't want to know every time I looked in them, but I risked a glance that night--and she was right. It was faint, but it was there.
It was me.
It was the first glimpse of me I'd had in two years.
Joy, I thought. It's real, after all.
Which meant I could stop faking it and start... believing.
I don't know how many Project Joy posts I'm going to write, but check back next week--there should be another!
Part One is here.
The Pinterest Board is here.
And as always, feel free to reach out to me if you feel lost in your own dark. Maybe I can be a little lantern for you, to help you remember you're not alone. You're not. I promise.
This was the first romance I ever wrote, and I'm thrilled that it's finally out on this side of the pond.
You can download it now right here!
(If it's not at your e-retailer of choice, don't worry. It will be shortly!)
We deserve it and we're not alone.
More on Project Joy soon!
My husband and I fell down a rabbit hole a few years ago, for all the right reasons. We decided to start a family. We thought it would take a while the way you hear it does, and instead, we got pregnant immediately. How fantastic! we thought. Or we tried to think, while panicking.
But we were in love. We loved each other and we loved the little baby inside me the moment we knew it was there. We were ready to take the step, to go on the adventure.
We had a year of miscarriages, the first loss being the hardest at 13 weeks. When I write it in a sentence like that, it seems so small, so simple. It's not. The fact that it's a common grief, a common loss, should make it easier. It does and it doesn't. It's not a grief that goes anywhere. It sticks in your heart like a knife and you learn to breathe around it, that's all. You accept the scar tissue as part of you or it takes you to your knees with every breath. That's the only choice you have.
After the year of miscarriages, I found myself all alone on a coastal walk somewhere between Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach in Australia. I stared out at the Tasman Sea and I decided to live. That sounds like a silly thing, but it wasn't. It was quiet and hard, and it was a decision I wasn't certain I could make, so raw and ruined did I feel. But I stared at the endless blue ocean and the life that waited for me far off on the other side of the Pacific, and I decided:
I will live through this, somehow.
Then came the year of endless procedures and Prednisone.
Looking back, it's a bit of a blur. I remember doctor's visit after doctor's visit. I remember obsessively tracking my cycle, peeing on sticks, counting days, restricting my food and drink and waiting. And waiting. I remember so many ultrasounds that I feel I could perform one myself. I remember recognizing less and less of myself in the mirror, as my body swelled to hitherto unimaginable size, my eyes dulled, and I became a stranger to myself. I remember the hormones, the treatments, the astounding callousness of so many people who work in a field filled with desperate, despairing women.
"I'm not sure about taking more hormones," I said once. "I've already gained so much weight…"
"Are you worried about your weight or do you want to be a mother?" she asked.
I got off the phone and cried for hours.
I remember the dark of it all. I remember the people I lost along the way because I was incapable of taking care of them when I could barely take care of myself, when I felt abandoned and betrayed by my own body on a cellular level. I remember the remarkable kindness of those who understood what I was going through or could at least pretend they did--strangers who showed me such deep understanding across the internet, friends who cried with me and mourned our tragedies as their own. Sisters in these losses, these agonies, these quiet devastations no one talks about until you've suffered one, too.
I remember feeling as if I was on a roller coaster that only went down and down, darker and darker, dizzy and lost to myself.
And then my 40th birthday approached, and I decided it was a milestone that deserved a marker. I can't say "celebration," as I was incapable of celebrating.
A friend convinced me to go with her on a writing retreat to Tuscany. I sat with a wildly talented author I knew and asked her why it seemed she was so happy all the time.
"Because I decided to be," she said.
That rang in me like a bell. I'd decided to survive. Could I decide to be happy, too? Was it--like all terribly complicated things--that simple, in the end?
Then I went back to England, where I hadn't been since I passed my doctoral oral exam years ago. And being back there, stamping around London with one of my favorite people from grad school who said "you are in a bad place, yes; let's take a long walk," as if I wasn't a stranger to either one of us, loosened something inside the frozen dark of me.
I remember the girl who picked up and moved to England, I thought. I remember what it was like to be intrepid and fearless.
A few weeks later, my old friends from college decided we needed to throw a little bit of a reunion for ourselves, as we were all hitting 40 that year. We met up in Santa Fe, took over a house, and simply marinated in each other. I was in such a dark, despairing place. My considerable weight gain was what I pointed to as the emblem of it all, but of course, it was a darkness that ran much, much deeper. It was that scar tissue, and I was very much on my knees. And these women who'd known me since I was eighteen simply… loved me. They made me feel like me again. They made me feel as valuable and unbroken, as unruined at my darkest as I'd ever been when I'd felt better about myself.
I remember loving myself as much as they do, I thought. I remember the bright girl they see when they look at me.
And I wanted her back. I wanted me back. I didn't know how I'd let myself get so lost.
Shortly after that, my husband and I decided to take a break from the fertility spiral. We decided we needed to remind ourselves of who we were before we lost that, too. We made a pact: we'd table the discussion about kids--and the endless trying, the drugs and the herbs and the appointments and the ceaseless grief and financial drain--until we felt like us again.
We wanted to be us again.
We called this Project Joy.
I'm going to tell you all about it, because I think we all deserve joy, no matter what we've suffered, and if I can inspire you to start your own Project Joy in your life, I want to. Check back.
In the meantime, you can look at my Pinterest board where I'm collecting some of the things that have inspired me through this journey.
And if you've suffered a miscarriage or the awful infertility whirl and need someone to talk to, feel free to reach out. I'd be happy to be an ear across the darkness.
Here are some things my husband, who happens to be a storyteller in his own right and knows a thing or two about the creative process, has stopped asking me when I make these announcements:
~Don't you already know how to write?
~Will you actually get any writing done while off gallivanting with other writers?
~Do you really need to go on a writing retreat?
I'll confess from the start: I didn't get any writing done in the nearly two weeks I spent on the west coast of Ireland and in London.
Then again, maybe I did. It depends how you measure it.
There are no sheep in the roads where I live, and certainly no shepherds. Traffic jams are a fact of life, but rarely involve hardy, working collies and a stunning view.
There are no ruins here, either. No deserted villages like the ones my ancestors on both sides left behind them in the 1800s, to look for something better across the sea. Sometimes it's necessary to tramp through an ancient bog on a windswept island, the brooding North Atlantic a presence even all the way inland, looking at very old stones and thinking about people you never met and never knew. Necessary and important. Crucial, like breath.
And I think it's equally important to learn these things first hand. To know how the wind burns your ears when you stand at the famous Cliffs of Moher on a January morning. To feel the wet in your face and the cut of the cold on your hands no matter how deeply you bury them in your pockets.
Or to stand in a churchyard tucked between mountains and shrouded in fog, to read the words of a great poet etched into a headstone on the outskirts of Sligo and remember his work, all these years later. To think about things like time, and loss, and the aching beauty of a quiet grave.
To murmur his lines near the lake he loved, and etch them firmly in your own head: "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree--"
Because it means more, having stood there.
You can feel the words inside you, like an echo of the things you've seen.
Sometimes you find yourself in these landscapes, as if parts of you were left there in some long ago time, just waiting for you to happen back and find them. There's that sense of connection to places wholly unknown. Magic, maybe. Longing, probably.
But it changes you every time it happens. It adds more texture and color to the tapestry inside you, to the worlds you carry in your head.
The more you travel, the more you imagine.
The more you imagine, the better you write.
You reach deeper. You try harder.
I'm not sure which part resonates with me more now that I'm home, surrounded by familiar things, books to write and my life to live...
...coming up over a rise on the Atlantic Drive on Achill Island to see the craggy coast spread out before me, sparkling and gorgeous in the unexpected January sun, rugged and beautiful, making all of us gasp and wonder...
...or the simple, sweet perfection of a mocha made with pride ("we do not use whipped cream or anything else; we use chocolate and coffee; we make coffees here") and care in a happened-upon cafe halfway through a long, cold winter walk in East London.
I didn't get any writing done on my writing retreat. But I filled myself up. I changed and grew. I learned from masters of my craft, from the stories they told and the pointers they shared. I lost myself and found myself, sometimes in the course of a single drive in the lonely Irish countryside, or a walk with friends in the midst of busy London.
There's so much more to writing than words.
Megan Crane is the author of nearly thirty books, some of them written under the name Caitlin Crews. She is now back home with her long-suffering husband and neck deep in the ACTUAL WRITING part of writing as her deadline is coming in fast, like a train. She would much rather be in Ireland. You can find out more about her at www.megancrane.com or www.caitlincrews.com.
(This was originally posted at The Girlfriends Book Club blog)